According to a video by Epic Reads, the 70’s were a Golden Age for YA, as authors wrote more and more about controversial topics like sex, underage drinking, homelessness, and drugs. Though the early 90’s led to a fear for the genre’s survival, the late 90’s picked up the YA movement once again. The early 2000’s were categorized as the “second” Golden Age of YA, when books such as the Hunger Games, Twilight, and Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series gained popularity.
I believe we are in the Third Golden Age of YA lit.
Young Adult books are changing with the times. They’re more inclusive, moving away from the straight, white, cisgender default (there really shouldn’t be a default, which is another post entirely). It’s much easier now to recommend books with people of color or LGBTQIA+ leads, or both. Though YA still has a long way to go before it completely erases the straight white default, the industry is striving to become more diverse by lifting up LGBTQIA+ and authors of color.
YA is evolving to address the major concerns of the times. Gun control, LGBTQIA+ rights, mental illness, and disability are appearing more often in YA books. This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp details a deadly, emotion-charged school shooting. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan is about a girl, Leila, figuring out her attraction to women and how that’s clashing with her Persian heritage, as well as dealing with the regular ups and downs of being in high school. When We Collided by Emery Lord is both a love story and a book about living with mental illness or someone who does. Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom is about Parker, a blind girl dealing with high school and unexpected persons showing up and breaking all her rules.
Character relationships are changing. While romance remains a part of most YA books, it’s not usually the one highlighted relationship that takes up 90% of the book. In Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, the sisterly bond between Safi and Iseult is shown more than budding romance/desire. In A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, there’s much more of a focus on how characters & their world(s) interact. Romance largely takes a back seat as Kell & Rhy’s brotherly connection (whatever you say, I will NEVER ship Krhy) and Kell & Lila’s friendship/stranger-in-danger bond dominates the book. It addresses Kell’s relationship to his “parents” and Grey London’s king.
Outrun the Moon and Under a Painted Sky showcase other relationships as well. Samantha & Annamae’s relationship remains the center focus of the book as they go from strangers on the run to close-as-sisters. Mercy Wong’s (Outrun the Moon) relationship with a person (not naming names because you need to read this book & adore it) takes a back seat to how Mercy interacts with the girls at St. Clare’s, her family, and the survivors of the massive 1906 earthquake.
YA is, like a Pokémon, evolving to become something greater and more inclusive. It’s changing to reflect the world around us and I am SO HERE for that.
For some awesome diverse books, check out Dahlia Adler’s blog. She’s got a lot of amazing recommendations 🙂
Do you believe we’re in a golden age of YA?